What Does Percentage of New Visits Measure in Google Analytics?

by David Ward

Google Analytics is a tracking tool that allows webmasters to track any number of aspects of the visitors to their website. One of the reports provided within Google Analytics is the percentage of new visits. There can be some confusion between two measures of visitors, one being the number of "absolute unique visitors" and "new visits." The former tracks the number of people who have never visited the website while the latter tracks the number of sessions of visitors who are new to the website.

Tracking Unique Visitors to Website

Determining how many new visitors are arriving at a website can be a critical piece of information in focusing online marketing efforts. For this reason, many website owners will pay attention to how many unique visitors are coming to one's website. This information can be valuable in determining how to structure one's website. For example, if nearly all the visitors are new to the website, the webmaster may decide to alter the website to ensure users return to the website more often. On the other hand, if nearly all the visitors are return visitors, then the webmaster may work to expand the reach of the website, bringing new visitors to the site.

Absolute Unique Visitors

Google Analytics differentiates between "absolute unique visitors" and "new visits." An absolute unique visitor is based on the question of whether the visitor has ever visited the website before. If the website visitor has never come to the website during the time that Analytics was installed, then the user is classified as an absolute unique visitor. In this way, Analytics is tracking the specific visitor, determining if that computer has never visited this website previously.

Percentage of New Visits

Google Analytics also tracks the number of new visits. This measure tracks the percentage of visits to the website that are by unique visitors. The main difference is that it is tracking sessions of website visitation by new visitors rather than the overall number of people who are new visitors. To clarify, if a website was visited by 100 people during a month and 50 of them had never visited before, then the percentage of absolute unique visitors is 50 percent. However, if each returning visitor visited the website three times, then there would be 150 return visits and 50 new visits. Thus, the percentage of new visits would be 25 percent. Although the difference in the definition of these two measure is subtle, the difference in what is being measured is important.

Visits Vs. Visitors

Although the difference between these two measures seems subtle, it can be important from a marketing standpoint. A high number of absolute unique visitors indicates that efforts to spread the word about a website are effective. However, if nearly every visit to your website is from a new visitor, then it indicates that the website is not engaging people in a way that causes them to return to the website. Depending on the goals of the website, this may or may not be important. However, understanding what each of these measure means allows a webmaster to determine if the website is meeting his goals.

About the Author

David Ward has written professionally for websites since 2009. He has published instructional material on numerous websites, as well as in collegiate newspapers including "Cherwell" at the University of Oxford and "Quest" at Reed College. Ward holds a Master of Arts in social sciences from the University of Chicago.

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